Are the Spartans Championship Ready?

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“Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Opti King is nuts! He says that MSU is going to beat UM in the big house with Brian Hoyer of all people leading the way! He says that if they can stop Brandon Minor and win time of possession, and convert on third down, they have a great chance. He says that Hoyer and not Cousins will have a big day passing, and the defense will force some turnovers to lead the way. This “nut” is already congratulating Spartan fans for the victory before the game!! He has officially lost it!” Don’t ya love it?

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Okay, enough of the third person transcribing. I don’t want to weird out any more people.

The fact is, if MSU is the little brother, then UM is the red-headed arrogant step child and had the beat down to prove it. Outside of the bevy of mistakes that the Spartans made to almost beat themselves, the Wolverines were never in it. Not even a blown pylon call or a “Narduzzi touchdown” was enough to offset the confident Spartans. (By the way a Narduzzi touchdown is where the Spartans score an offensive touchdown and then the defense relaxes and gives up a touchdown in under a 1:30 or less). LOL

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Yet, it was that quick touchdown that UM scored before the first half that would have doomed the Spartans in past years with the change of momentum and the subsequent collapse to go with it. However, things are different this year, much different. They toughed out Iowa, Northwestern and now Michigan. The nearly doubled the offensive output of UM, and won the game with great field position. Even Rodriquez was grumbling after the game about trying to go 80 or 90 yards against the Spartans. Special teams kept the Wolvies pinned deep, and it was vital to victory.

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Let, me tell you also, this game means a lot for both sides. Michigan fans will tell you that MSU is not as big a rival as OSU and that simply is not so. Bo Schembechler was hired to beat MSU, not Ohio State. Don’t believe me? Look it up. The OSU-UM rivalry evolved for two reasons. The relationship between head coaches involved, and the fact the Big Ten title often came down to that last game. In fact, UM players are often taught not to mention MSU as a rival, to not even acknowledge them. Yet if you talk to some of the UM players, the Spartan-Wolverine game means more to them than the Ohio State game, but you will never get those comments publicly. That would go against the “Meechigan Man” brain washing propaganda that all freshman football players endure.

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So the Spartans earned a good victory against a team that wanted to win badly. Anybody see Brandon Graham trying to chase Javon Ringer down on his long touchdown run? Don’t tell me UM didn’t want to win, and don’t tell me they don’t have good football players. Even the often criticized Steven Threat was a four-star recruit. UM has good football players and they got smoked by a better team, a much better team.

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The unity of this team is something to behold. I was really impressed by the new contributors that jumped in and played so well the guys in green didn’t miss a beat. Ryan Allison played well against Northwestern and played well again. How about Marcus Hyde? Blair “Whitey” White, the former walk-on? Outstanding.

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Plus the vets on the team played well. What can you say about Joel Nitchman? With the rest off the line getting more pub before the season, that guy is rock solid. Former Spartan and current Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker said he thought Nitchman was the best of the Spartan offensive lineman and he is playing like it.

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Yet, overall it was team victory and no one guy deserves more or less credit than anyone else, but you have to mention Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer. Ringer has stamina above stamina, and toughness, and was not afraid to go jaw to jaw with Terrance Taylor. When the classy Ringer was not backing down to anyone, including Taylor, I knew he was going to have a great day.

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Then there is Brian Hoyer. Gosh, I love this kid and knew he would bounce back. He was picking up every blitz and found all the open spots in the secondary. Even Chris Spielman

was gushing about his ability to read the UM defense and their blitzes. In fact, had there been a little less pressure on him, then he probably would have thrown for a couple more touchdowns. This guy does more than just hand the ball off, he is a quarterback. Plus he is classy. Even when defenders jump the routes or receivers can’t get separation, he takes the

blame. He is a stand up guy. Outside a couple deep throws he has missed early in the season he has been a quality quarterback. He will be missed more than some of you may care to admit.

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Now it is on to Wisconsin week. There used to be the 24-hour rule, and some of the players wanted 36-hours to celebrate, so a compromise was reached at 26 hours. Coach Dantonio has a good sense of humor doesn’t he? However, I wouldn’t celebrate much more than that. The Badgers are a quality football team and can give MSU all they can handle if they are not careful. What you worry about here is a letdown after an emotional victory.

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Dantonio, however, can point to a lot of areas for improvement to keep them motivated. Like defensive linemen jumping offsides from hard counts, false starts, handling pressure and the sacks that go with them, fumbles, developing a few more plays on 3rd and short, red zone offense (although that has gotten a little better), covering tight ends, and a little practice with what is normally a reliable field goal team. Plenty to work on if they want to play for a championship.

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Did I mention championship? Maybe I shouldn’t do so prematurely, but if MSU can take care of their own business against Wisconsin and Purdue, it will come down to a Penn State team that will have an enormous amount of pressure on them and for good reason. The Nittany Lions could not only lose an outright Big Ten title but a National Championship as well. A tight PSU club might play into the hands of MSU perfectly. Yet there is a lot of football between now and then to be played.

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Wisconsin is where Dantonio and the staff will really earn their money. Past years have shown a collapse, even when they have beaten UM. Yet this team has a different feel to it, and they have already caught a break…literally. Highly-touted tight end Travis Beckum had surgery after breaking his left fibula against Illinois. That will help only a little for a Spartan team that struggles to cover the tight end because Garrett Graham has picked up the slack.

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The Spartans defense will need to get off the field. The Badgers are the most dangerous when they are pounding the ball on the ground and sprinkling in throws to keep drives moving. When they control the ball and clock it hurts and can wear down a defense. UM did a good job of upping pressure and forcing Wisconsin into mistakes, and MSU will have to do the same and that could help with a potential let down. QB Dustin Scherer burned Illinois with two touchdown passes so the Spartans will have to be ready for anything.

The Badgers moved the ball against PSU but were hurt by four turnovers and MSU will have to force the action as I mentioned previously.

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Offensively, Hoyer will have to be careful with his throws. Michigan moved the ball that way, but Illinois threw three picks in the Badger victory last week. There is space in the secondary, you just have to be careful and know what you are doing. Shonn Greene of Iowa busted four long touchdown runs against them, and Coach Treadwell will be studying that tape as well. It looks like a balanced offensive that stays on the field will job one for the MSU offense.

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